A Guide to ADHD in Females

Medically Reviewed By Dannell Roberts, PhD, BCBA-D

Because attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can present differently in females than in males, the condition is often underdiagnosed. Understanding the difference can help you get the correct diagnosis and treatment. ADHD has long been thought of as a condition that affects males more often. However, this may be because ADHD is often underdiagnosed in females. ADHD presents differently in females than males, so the signs and symptoms are often overlooked.

Despite these challenges, females with ADHD can get an accurate diagnosis by understanding their condition and how it affects them. And with the right treatment and support, they can live well and thrive with ADHD.

Read on to learn more about how ADHD presents in females, how it differs from symptoms experienced by males, and what treatment options are available.

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article uses the terms “female” and “women” when discussing people who are assigned female at birth to reflect language that appears in source materials.

More people search using the term “women,” so this is used throughout the piece to reflect that trend.

Learn more about the difference between sex and gender.

How does ADHD present in women?

A woman laying on a couch and reading a book
Mauro Grigollo/Stocksy United

ADHD can present in three ways Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source :

  • predominantly inattentive, where a person may be forgetful or easily distracted
  • predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, where a person may be impulsive or high-energy
  • combined inattentive and hyperactive, which may present with a combination of the two other types

Learn more about the presentations of ADHD.

Though females can have any one of the ADHD presentations, they most often experience the inattentive presentation, according to the Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) organization. They may:

  • forget things
  • often run late for appointments or behind on deadlines
  • be easily distracted
  • have trouble following through on things
  • be messy or disorganized
  • lose things easily
  • have trouble sustaining attention, especially in a noisy or busy environment
  • daydream

It is also possible for females to have hyperactive-impulsive symptoms. They may:

  • fidget and often need to get up and walk around
  • act impulsively or speak before thinking
  • talk excessively
  • appear to daydream but have thoughts that “go a mile a minute”
  • have little self-discipline or act recklessly
  • have to work harder than others to be successful

How does ADHD in women differ from ADHD in men?

Males and females can experience any of the ADHD presentations. But while males typically present with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD, women tend to present with symptoms of inattentive ADHD.

Females with ADHD can experience the same general symptoms as males with ADHD, but the way they express symptoms may be different. Their symptoms may present more “internally” than they do in males.

Learn 8 things doctors want you to know about ADHD.

Why is ADHD underdiagnosed in women?

ADHD tends to be underdiagnosed in females. Experts believe there are a few reasons for this.

Parents and healthcare professionals expect to see the hyperactive-impulsive presentation of ADHD that they see in males. As a result, symptoms of ADHD in females are often overlooked.

Symptoms of ADHD may be seen as female character traits or emotional issues. They may also be mistaken for other conditions, such as depression or anxiety, which researchers note Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source can occur alongside ADHD.

How can ADHD impact women’s lives?

Females with ADHD can experience challenges in many areas of life.

Daily challenges

When you live with ADHD, keeping up with daily tasks and chores can feel like a constant effort. You may:

  • have a hard time making decisions
  • find it difficult to keep up with bills
  • have a disorganized, cluttered, or messy living space

The American Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) also notes that having ADHD may negatively affect your physical health by making it more difficult to maintain a balanced diet or remember to take your medications.

Difficulty in relationships

The nature of ADHD symptoms can make it hard to maintain relationships or have healthy relationships. You may:

  • make friends easily but have trouble sustaining friendships
  • have trouble picking up social cues or reading body language
  • have low self-esteem, making it hard to form new relationships

Due to impulsivity or fear of rejection, females with ADHD may become Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source sexually active at a younger age than their peers. They may also be at greater risk of:

  • being pressured into unwanted sex
  • experiencing sexual violence
  • not insisting their partner use contraception

Emotional challenges

With ADHD, you can also experience emotions more intensely. You may:

Learn more about whether ADHD is a disability and if you might be able to receive benefits.

What treatments are available to manage ADHD in women?

Despite the challenges, there are many treatments that can help females manage their condition and thrive with ADHD.

A 2020 study shows that psychological therapies and medication can have a positive impact on females with ADHD, leading to increased productivity and improved long-term outcomes.


Medications used to treat ADHD include:

  • Stimulants: These medications increase certain types of activity in the brain, particularly in areas that help control attention and behavior.
  • Non-stimulants: These can be used to treat blood pressure but also help with attention and sleep problems.
  • Antidepressants: These help with mood-related conditions like anxiety or depression.

For females, hormone fluctuations at different stages of life may cause Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source an increase in ADHD symptoms. Hormone replacement therapy combined with ADHD medications may be beneficial.

Learn more about 10 commonly prescribed ADHD medications.


Along with medication, your doctor may recommend behavioral or psychological treatment for ADHD. Behavioral treatments may include lifestyle support or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

CBT is a type of talk therapy that helps you learn how to reframe your thoughts and behaviors. It can help with:

  • time management
  • organization
  • planning

Your therapist may also work with you on:

  • regulating emotions
  • impulse control
  • social skills
  • stress management and mindfulness
  • work and home accommodations

Learn more about what to expect with behavior therapy for ADHD.


ADHD symptoms present differently in females. While males generally have hyperactive-impulsive presentation, females tend to have inattentive presentation of ADHD.

Common ADHD symptoms in females include forgetting things, being easily distracted, and having trouble sustaining attention. They may also experience anxiety and depression and have difficulty in relationships.

Treatment with medication and behavioral or psychological therapy can be effective for females with ADHD. It can help by controlling attention, regulating emotions, and changing negative thought and behavior patterns.

Talk with your doctor about ways to manage ADHD.

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Medical Reviewer: Dannell Roberts, PhD, BCBA-D
Last Review Date: 2023 May 24
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. ADHD in women: Signs, symptoms, and treatment. (2022). https://add.org/adhd-in-women/
  2. Antoniou, E., et al. (2021). ADHD symptoms in females of childhood, adolescent, reproductive and menopause period. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8385721/
  3. Symptoms of ADHD in women and girls. (n.d.). https://chadd.org/for-adults/symptoms-of-adhd-in-women-and-girls/
  4. Young, S., et al. (2020). Females with ADHD: An expert consensus statement taking a lifespan approach providing guidance for the identification and treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in girls and women. https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-020-02707-9